Massachusetts Health Coverage Bill Could Influence Other Efforts
Several newspapers on Thursday published articles and editorials addressing the plan passed by the Massachusetts Legislature on Tuesday that would require all uninsured residents to purchase coverage by July 1, 2007, and employers with 11 or more workers to provide health coverage for employees.
Summaries appear below.
Boston Globe: The Globe on Thursday examined a "key element" of Gov. Mitt Romney's (R) original proposal -- "providing low-cost, pared-down coverage for about $200 a month." Lawmakers "were unwilling to adopt some of the measures that" Romney and "insurers had counted on to lower premiums," the Globe reports. According to the Globe, lawmakers and insurance executives on Wednesday said the bill calls for state-subsidized health plans with average monthly premiums of about $325 for individuals. The state will cover the cost of the premium for individuals with annual incomes up to 100% of the federal poverty level and will subsidize premiums for those with annual incomes between 100% and 300% of the poverty level. A "major question is whether" uninsured residents with incomes over 300% of the federal poverty level who do not qualify for the state-subsidized coverage "will be able to afford coverage," the Globe reports (Kowalczyk, Boston Globe, 4/6).
BusinessWeek Online: BusinessWeek on Wednesday examined how in approving the health care legislation, "Massachusetts may have broken the gridlock" of stalled "efforts to extend health insurance to more Americans." According to BusinessWeek, the bill "marries conservative and liberal ideas," and "it will surely reinvigorate the ongoing national debate" (Symonds, BusinessWeek Online, 4/5).
CQ HealthBeat: CQ HealthBeat on Wednesday looked at how "money is a big obstacle to replicating [Massachusetts' health care reform] model nationwide" because "[n]ot only does Massachusetts have a relatively small uninsured population, it also has a relatively large 'free care pool,' whose funding will be shifted to providing subsidies for the purchase of insurance," according to analysts. However, "[d]espite questions about Massachusetts as a model for the nation, the state is clearly now a laboratory that will be closely watched nationally by those hoping for a compromise on the issue of the uninsured," CQ HealthBeat reports (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 4/5).
- New York Times: One of the "most surprising aspects" about the bill's passage "is that it involved the cooperation of virtually every political stakeholder in the state" because "Massachusetts has more than its share of political egos per capita," the Times reports. According to the Times, a "confluence of ... factors," including a threat by the federal government to cut $385 million in Medicaid funding, "pushed the parties to an agreement" (Belluck, New York Times, 4/6).
Washington Post: The Massachusetts plan is a "good" and "innovative social policy," a Post editorial says. Romney, who has said the plan is "a way of achieving universal coverage without new taxes or a government takeover of the health system, ... deserves credit for working with a Democratic Legislature to come up with a promising plan, but not for his rhetoric," the editorial adds. While Romney might be "tempted to argue that his state offers a model for others," Massachusetts "began with two advantages" -- "an unusually low percentage of residents who are uninsured and a state-backed pool of money for compensating hospitals for free emergency care that provided reformers with a ready source of revenue funds," the editorial states. The editorial notes that "it isn't even certain that the Massachusetts plan will work on its home turf" (Washington Post, 4/6).
- Washington Times: The Massachusetts health care plan "is a Frankenstein's monster of tax penalties, expanded government-insurance programs and unfunded mandates," a Times editorial states. According to the editorial, the "fault of this bill is that it really isn't 'consumer-driven' at all," but "[p]erhaps the biggest laugher here is that we're somehow supposed to be impressed with ... Romney's observation that the bill simply applies the state's auto insurance thinking to medical care." The editorial adds, "The state's auto insurance market is an overregulated nightmare. It's so bad that even Geico and Progressive don't offer plans in Massachusetts. A lizard would choke on it" (Washington Times, 4/6).
Several broadcast programs reported on the Massachusetts bill:
- ABCNews' "World News Tonight": The segment includes comments from Paul Ginsburg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change; Romney; a Massachusetts business owner; and a Massachusetts resident with high health care costs (Weiner, "World News Tonight," ABCNews, 4/5). Video of a related segment is available online.
- APM's "Marketplace": The segment includes comments from Stuart Altman, health economist and professor of national health policy at the Brandeis University Heller School for Social Policy and Management; Richard Cauchi, health program director at the National Conference of State Legislatures; and Uwe Reinhardt, a professor of political economy Princeton University (Palmer, "Marketplace," APM, 4/5). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- CBS' "Evening News": The segment includes comments from Altman and Romney (Regan, "Evening News," CBS, 4/5). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NBC's "Nightly News": The segment includes comments from Ginsburg; Reinhardt; Romney; and an uninsured U.S. resident (Taibbi, "Nightly News," NBC, 4/5). The complete segment is available online in Windows Media.
- PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer": Susan Dentzer, health correspondent for the NewsHour, reports on the bill (Dentzer, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 4/5). The complete transcript is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- WAMU's "The Diane Rehm Show": The first hour of the NPR-syndicated show on Thursday is scheduled to include a discussion of the bill. Guests on the program are scheduled to include Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, and Bill Vernon, Massachusetts state director for the National Federation of Independent Business (Rehm, "The Diane Rehm Show," WAMU, 4/6). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer and Windows Media after the broadcast.